The Revolution of 1800

A listener asked me to name the best book on the Revolution of 1800. If you don’t know what I am talking about, this was Jefferson’s victory–and a Republican sweep–in the 1800 election. The Federalists were sent packing and the Republicans took power.

It has been described as a bloodless revolution, as nothing short of the 1688 Glorious Revolution in England. That “revolution” was bloodless, as was Jefferson’s triumph in 1800, or rather 1801 after James A. Bayard of Delaware flipped his vote and allowed Jefferson to win the election on the 36th ballot in the House of Representatives.

Regardless, Jefferson became the first Republican to assume the office of the presidency. His program became the standard for the general government of the next sixty years, for even the Whigs often spoke of Jefferson more than Washington.

Kevin Gutzman’s forthcoming book on the Virginia Dynasty will explore this in more detail, but my current favorite book on the topic is Norman Risjord’s The Old Republicans.

He correctly identifies these men as the true progenitors of American conservatism, and in what would drive every Straussian mad, explains that the South was the real bastion of conservatism in American history. This isn’t the “proposition nation” nonsense you get from the Jaffaites.

In an age when American conservatism is being incorrectly defined by a bunch of West Coast Straussians and neoconservatives, it’s nice to have a real discussion of what American conservatism always was and how it began.

I cover Risjord, the Old Republicans, and the 1800 Revolution on Episode 545 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

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